Breast Milk Purchased Online Diluted With Cow’s Milk, Study Shows

If you are purchasing your child’s breast milk online, you may not be getting what you think.

According to a new study published in the journal Pediatrics, researchers led by the Nationwide Children’s Hospital have found several cases where the breast milk purchased on the Internet was diluted with cows milk.

“We were concerned that, because money is exchanged in these transactions, there might be an incentive to boost milk volumes in order to make more money,” Sarah A. Keim, PhD, principal investigator in the Center for Biobehavioral Health in The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s, said in a press release. “Cow’s milk and infant formula resemble human milk and could potentially be added to boost volumes without the recipient knowing. Mothers who consider purchasing breast milk over the Internet should beware — when you obtain milk from an unfamiliar source, you cannot know for sure that what you are getting is safe for your baby.”

For the study, researchers bought 102 samples of breast milk from milk-sharing websites. They then extracted 200 µL of each sample and compared the samples to their own preparations of human milk diluted with cow’s milk

What they found will make parents think twice before buying their milk online.

“All Internet samples amplified human DNA. After 2 rounds of testing, 11 samples also contained bovine DNA. Ten of these samples had a level of bovine DNA consistent with human milk mixed with at least 10 percent fluid cow’s milk.”

While all of the samples contained human breast milk, the concentration of human milk and cows milk was enough to prove that the cows milk was intentionally added either by way of baby formula or straight from the carton.

“We found that one in every 10 samples of breast milk purchased over the Internet had significant amounts of cow’s milk added, and this poses a risk to infants with an allergy or intolerance to cow’s milk,” Keim, who is also the lead author of the study, said.

“If a baby with cow’s milk allergy were to drink this milk, it could be very harmful,” Keim added.

Dr. Keim urges parents to avoid buying their breast milk online and hopes that pediatricians will start educating parents on the risks associated with doing so.

“Pediatricians who care for infants should be aware that milk advertised as human is available via the Internet, and some of it may not be 100 percent human milk,” Keim said. “And patients should be counseled against obtaining milk in this way for their infant.”

“Quality, timely lactation support for moms who want to breastfeed their babies could help avoid the need for many mothers to seek milk online,” she added. “Women who have difficulty making enough milk for their child should work with their pediatrician to identify safe, healthy ways to feed their baby. The risk of contamination and added cow’s milk makes it unsafe to purchase breast milk over the Internet.”

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